Understanding the Meaning of a Junior Day

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Junior Day [jün - y r da], [n]: An event where a college program invites prospective recruits who are in their junior year of high school to visit campus, meet coaches and learn more about the university.

The Junior Day is all grown up, and it's now a major piece of the puzzle for college coaches seeking to attract top high school talent within a few hours drive from campus. In fact, not long after coaches close the book on one recruiting class, they start looking ahead to the next.

Although being invited to a college's Junior Day could be a promising sign for your athletic future, you need to realize that it might be more of a show than an educational experience.

Many programs invite a small targeted group of prospects, some of whom have already been contacted. Others cast the net wide to snare 50-plus juniors at a time. In the latter scenario, you can be sure that the coach has some interest, but the reality is that you may not be actively recruited.

Either way, these gatherings are ruled unofficial visits, meaning invitees are responsible for getting themselves to campus and for all expenses incurred during the trip. Most targeted prospects reside within a few hours drive from campus, which makes attending relatively easy and affordable.

As for what to expect and how to make a good first impression, N.C. State associate baseball coach and recruiting coordinator Tom Holliday says, "The Junior Day should be to relax the kid into the program. I like to make sure they understand our sport, rather than bringing them in for a football game and misleading them into believing that 50,000 people [are] at every baseball game."

Checking out a home football or basketball contest may be the highlight of your visit, but Holliday warns against letting that overshadow the original purpose of the trip. He suggests using the visit to learn as much as you can about the program. Find out what the players' expectations are for the team. Are they contending for conference and national titles every year? Or is the program struggling to rebuild? Holliday says if you're trying to see how you fit in with the program, learn how to evaluate a roster.

Parents are one of the most important resources you can have at a Junior Day. "Parents are an enormous source of lifetime experience," Holliday says. "I think the parents have a sense for coaches who tell the truth, as opposed to guys who use the recruiting lines and tell kids what they want to hear. I wouldn't want to be recruited by some smooth-talking guy who can't coach. I would want to know who's going to coach me, because I want to get better over the next four years."

Flushing out the truth and asking the tough questions is not always an easy task for a junior in high school. Says Holliday: "It should be the purpose of Junior Day, or, for that matter, any visit to campus."

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